Rabbi Avram Mlotek
Base’s three pillars are living the Jewish calendar, Talmud Torah and community service. How these pillars look depends on each Base rabbi, partner and local community. For us at Base DWTN, it looks like the following.
Regarding chochma: Sharing the treasury and wisdom of the Jewish canon is at the heart of Base’s mission. How it looks also varies. We have a class called “Then & Now: Torah Shmoozings” which teases out life questions from the weekly Torah portion. We have a course called “Exploring Judaism” which is a Judaism 101 course. Every Shabbat and holiday meal is an opportunity to share pearls of chochma in an organic way. We at Base try to ensure that every Jewish chochma offering is accessible to people with no background whatsoever learning Jewish text. We also believe that chochma does not exist only through text but through art, theatre, music, poetry and dance.
Regarding tzedek: We have a weekly service project where we prepare a home cooked dinner for the homeless shelter housed across the street from our home. On Yom Kippur we delivered care packages and food to the homeless on 6th avenue and Union Square Park. This is a core tenet of Base as well. Whether it’s a Shabbat dinner with JFREJ, studying text with Avodah corps members or attending rallies, tzedek is how most young Jews affiliate with Judaism today.
Regarding kehillah: This is at the core of Base. The idea is that a Jewish home is more welcoming, inviting, unassuming and safe than an institution or synagogue’s walls. The notion of Judaism as a family is fundamental. This manifests in many ways. We have open mics where people can come and workshop new material they are working on, we have support spaces, etc.
Regarding kedusha: Ideally, this transcends and interweaves all that we do. As a separate category it feels counterintuitive as it is a driving force in our work as meaning-makers and facilitators.
In what ways does your work advance an area of Jewish life or practice that is outside of the four propositions?
We believe in encountering Jewish diversity. If you are from a Reform background, meet a Jew from an Orthodox background. If you grew up going to a Conservative synagogue, meet someone who has never been to a “Temple” before. To this end, Base co-sponsors and collaborates with many different Jewish organizations. Our recent open mic was co-hosted with Jewish Queer Youth and Keshet bringing together LGBTQ and allies from across the Jewish spectrum. We also believe in the notion of creativity/hiddush, as a concept in it of itself. This includes a Writers Workshop where young writers are invited to come and workshop their creative writings together. It also includes a new group called Support Space which is a gathering for young Jewish professionals to come and gather in an informal setting to address their spiritual and mental health. Each session starts with a reflection, essay or work of art and then we share emotional updates. In this way, the Torah is not only the written Torah, but a living Torah, of ongoing learning.
Rabbi Avram Mlotek works as a rabbi and co-founder of Base Hillel. His Yiddish cultural work has brought him to China, Ethiopia, Israel, Sweden and Australia. In 2012, The New York Jewish Week selected him as a “leading innovator” in Jewish life today as part of their “36 Under 36” section.